Interview with a member of Grey County Historical Society:
Thank you for making the effort to come over to the recognition of the Agnes Macphail Road. It meant a lot to have the Historical Society and the committee represented.
When was the road officially named?
We called it "Recognition". The 'Agnes Macphail Road' signs actually went up a week or so ago. I didn't know until after they were up, but I was very glad to see that work had been completed. The Recognition was on Monday morning on very short notice because of the weather. At our coffee time following the Recognition, I read a portion of the HoldFast Prayer and spoke briefly about Agnes's passion for people Don Lewis (Major of Southgate) said, "The issues Agnes spoke about could be today's issues. In some ways it's disheartening, we haven't resolved them." (used with permission).
Is it the full length of County Road 9 or just a portion? What portion?
It is the portion of Grey County Road #9 that runs through Hopeville (past the birth site) from Highway #6 to Highway #10.
Anything else about it? Were you the prime mover in getting the designation?
A lot of people made this happen. It's a part of a larger plan over several years. The seeds were originally planted for me during a Children’s Story Time at Conn United Church when the Rev. Doyle Prior challenged the children to celebrate their God-given gifts and referred to Agnes,who was born locally, and who always wanted to be a teacher.
Then several weeks later, a group of Grade six students whom I met in the library jump-started this entire project. I give them credit for being the initiators. They were doing a project on Canada's Famous People. I asked them if Emily Carr was on their list. What about Nellie McClung? John Diefenbaker? They nodded, yes. "What about Agnes Macphail?" And one child responded, "Who was she?" Good question. This triggered a statement I read in one of Wilma Coutts (Durham) books, when years ago she lamented some Grade 8 students who were unaware of Agnes Macphail. Hmmm, so what else is new under the sun?”
That question, "Who was she?" echoed around in my mind. I began to explore ways to include the public in some kind of project.
And then of course Ontario's vote to make Agnes Ontario Greatest Woman was a great event.
Was it difficult to get people's interest? It's a busy world.
To back up to the beginning of the project for the historical site signs, Yes, you're right, it's a busy world. There wasn't a line-up of people waiting to come on board, but those who did, made it happen for the rest.
I submitted the first article to the Dundalk/Flesherton paper in July 2005 to get people's attention, to see if anybody was interested in a project for Agnes Macphail. I included a picture of Aggie's Place - a small restaurant in Flesherton, and spend a Sunday afternoon talking to people both in the restaurant and on the street, etc. The article was published, but I didn't hear from anybody, so I continued on.
How did the project come together?
First Phase of Project: I approached Southgate Township Council about a plan to erect signs on appropriate roads to designate historical sites, March, 2005. They were very helpful and supportive and sent me to Grey County (Gary Shaw) who was very encouraging and put me in touch with Heather Campbell (County Signs). I talked with Heather about signage for Ceylon and the Grey County Road #9 birth site. I submitted another article to the newspaper inviting family, friends and interested people. Granted in July, people don’t read the newspaper the same due to traveling and outside work. In the meantime I presented my plan to Southgate Township and later to Grey County Council in Owen Sound..
In September, 2005, I met with Heather at Aggie's Place (Flesherton) and we had lunch. I drew a picture of the desired sign on a serviette. I wanted Agnes Macphail's profile along side the statement "You are now entering Agnes Macphail country" to give a spirit of hospitality to fully interpret Agnes's love for Grey County and the people. The question remained, if this could actually be formatted on an irregular piece of wood or metal. I mean we just couldn't have that kind of invitation on a square piece. It would have to have some flair. Again the serviette with lines and marks, and Heather went back to her office and put the design into her computer and we were away. She sent me back a .jpg formatted picture a couple of days later. There it was - perfect!
"The signs are up!" a friend left a message on my answering machine. I immediately drove down to see one. I was thrilled. "Pass the word" And then a few days later on a dreadfully cold stormy December day in 2005, a small group of us met on the side of the road at Ceylon. I read the words on the sign, “You are now entering Agnes Macphail Country”, and then the Holdfast Prayer (printed in another area on the website); Larry Miller (local MP) gave remarks, Bill Murdock local MPP sent regrets, Sheila represented Grey County Historical Society; several members of the Women's Institute recruited by Gertha attended, and a few interested people applauded..
We went for lunch to Neil’s in Flesherton and everybody signed a place mat. I shared my dream of building a stone cairn on the farm (Lot 7, Concession 12, Proton) where Agnes was born March 24, 1890. The cairn would have a historical plaque to recognize Agnes's dedication to her country and especially as a Member of Parliament from South-East-Grey. This would also serve as an invitation for people to pause and rest at Agnes's birthplace. We are planning an unveiling of the cairn at the site and an afternoon of celebration at the Hopeville Park (which is also dedicated to Agnes's memory) I invited people to come on-board, to pass the word and to make it happen.
Second Phrase of Project: From that small group, a committee was formed and some folks joined later. We began to work toward the June 24th, 2006 day. Helen McMeekin assembled a large database of names and addresses for written invitations and personal telephone contacts and agreed to do mailouts. The committee members all worked tirelessly and would join me in a special word of thanks to Katie and Ken Harrison for their dedication to the project.
What else did you have in mind?
Third Phase: There was still unfinished work with the signing. Certainly the cooperation of Grey County Roads & Transportation has to be credited for their firm support and encouragement through the 2005 efforts to the 2007 efforts when "The Agnes Macphail Road" signs were erected competing the third phase of the project. As well Southgate Township who worked hand in hand with Grey County to make this happen. It has taken 2 1/2 years to this point to do what has been done.
Do you have any further plans for this project?
I'd like to go to Ottawa House of Commons, and then for me, the project will have come full circle. I would like to personally hand Aggie's Storms to someone in the House, thank them for welcoming the first woman into their midst and giving Agnes a platform from which to sew her seeds of goodness and hope on the nation of Canada. Aggie's Storms will introduce them to Agnes, the child, and to the community and family who nurtured her into the woman they know through the pages of history. With the signings of The Agnes Macphail Road, I hope that every child who travels the road with a family member or friend will ask that wonderful question when they see the sign, "Who was she?" And the story will begin . . . .
In the past three years, we have also had two essay finalists:
2006: Victoria Johnston - Mount Forest Public School, Ontario
2007 Osprey Elementary School, Ontario
Added to this document: 3rd – Mikaila Johnson, Mount Forest, Ontario
And Aggie's Storms was launched September 6, 2007. Aggie's Dream as a sequel will follow - I hope
Well, this is the long and short of it. Use what you'd like to use - any or all of it. If you have any questions let me know.